Back to Issue Twenty-Eight.

+ Psalm

2019 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry


My southbound passage here,
forgetting each field
as I entered it, hungering—
I gambled toward the lodestar of him.
I saw no difference, then,
between my lover, hogtied,
& the saint in my mirror,
between the rented room
& its thousand illnesses,
between myself & the dawn,
its cord of fever gathered around me.
I teethed his knuckles like a hooksong,
fucked myself into the sort of beauty
who wields an ivory hammer
to hasten her delicate thaw,
a ghost of fortune flickering
through his many rooms.
Unhooved, untrussed, after,
lying in each other’s tweed,
he told me his fantasy:
one million men arriving,
cock-handed, pearls of sweat
blazing between their eyebrows.
He said their eyes might wax
that which endears him to me.
He traced his name on my chest
in the shape of a locket,
a charm of possession,
& though he didn’t ask
I harbored my own fantasy:
that the business of immunity
would invite me into
its far-off parlor of sedge
as its darling apprentice,
beautiful as any elsewhere,
fashioned only for lovely tasks:
pouring sweet water
into orchid-shaped goblets—
trimming the beards
of ancient, blushing coinage—
splitting, with the jade knife
at the end of the world,
a melon into clean, boyish halves.

The phrase ‘cock-handed’ comes from Jameson Fitzpatrick’s poem ‘Fuck the Police.’



PrEP Kabuki

2019 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry


When burial. When banquet.

When meadow & its scroll of frailty.

When viewing anatomical

cross-sections of my lymphatic system,

I imagine a finch blooding

toward an elsewhere

& I imagine it one thousand times.

When, later, I nick

my finger in the kitchen,

it seems wrong I’m so ready

to jettison what sustains me,

wrong to imagine my body as other

than a dizzying graph of its nights,

a lineage of boys lusted

into contrapuntal ghosts.

When scalpel. When rippling

orb of milk. When all day

I flicker, Josephenic,

in lace & citrine, the pill

ranging ever southward within me.

When I think infection,

my general practitioner

crowns & uncrowns

my skull with a paper tiara.

When my lover forgets to pull out,

I siren into a sample

section of a dying population.

When I pass a garden,

I inspect each peony

for signs of collapse

& my boyish attar

dissembles into foam.

When asked where I imagine

myself in three to ten years,

I conjure a Carolinian parlor

& point to its most exquisite

& improbable candelabra

as an effigy of my rapidly

approaching absence.

When asked if I am going to die,

I marvel at my formal ineptitude:

never the quaking hyacinth

teetering behind some handsome ear—

always the shook boy

& his demented mirage of skin—

& when the question repeats itself,

I’ll smash my tetric want

into a poultice of mercy

& press my lips to its impish edge—

this nothing, really, like a life.



Sexting Three Men on My iPhone While My First Crush Becomes Every Teary-Eyed Boy in a Gay Marriage Proposal Video

2019 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry


Reclined in spring’s bright fiction / I fill the first glamour shot / legs pretty & buckwild / What I know tickertapes / across the bottom of my screen: / Jeremy works sales / in New Jersey / & an alloyed stud / crowns Alessandro’s dick / & Douglas prefers porker to pussy / & a finch bursts / with last season’s song / & it’s impossible to count / all the meadows widowing / between me & this photo of myself / Impossible to believe / any one of these men / would spill poppers on my face / or video my death drop / for their boyfriends, back home / But if I bend to pick up a quarter / one million boys arrive in salt / to take a picture of it / My pixels sexed / with a blue & milky light / & it’s hard not to consider / my own shimmering radius / & it’s hard not to consider / wooing a cottonwood / or sexting a cop / because suddenly there’s nothing I can’t do / & it’s hard not to consider / my first brief pornography / His tongue’s lunar passage / beyond the rim of my thigh / my heart a candle buried / in wet loam, buried / at the water’s edge / How I didn’t know I was a child / until someone told me so / boy effigy in digital seersucker / & now spring hoards / its morning sermons / & now I hold two fingers / against the thrumming screen / zoom in on my chronic sweetness / & now He sings in some tropical gyre / & does not fumble for the diamond / His jaw’s honeyed machinery clicking open & shut / but slides His finger, finally, into it / & the video buffers before He can say / whatever it is He will say / but we know the truth, me / & the men I love / that someday I will be more / than this failed mockingbird / but not by much / & wildfire smoke ruins my bonnet / & I sext him & him / & him & him / & him & him / & they’re all crying too

Aidan Forster is a queer poet from Greenville, South Carolina. A 2018 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, he has been honored by the National YoungArts Foundation, the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the Poetry Society of America, and the Poetry Society of the United Kingdom, among others. His work appears in the Adroit Journal, Best New Poets 2017, Columbia Poetry Review, Ninth Letter, and Tin House, among others. His debut chapbook of poems, Exit Pastoral, is forthcoming from YesYes Books, and his debut chapbook of prose, Wrong June, is forthcoming from Honeysuckle Press. He studies Literary Arts and Public Health at Brown University.


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